The first thing we thought to make for our Austrian dish was Wiener Schnitzel. In fact, we deliberately didn’t make this for Germany (a nation also famous for its schnitzel), because we wanted to save it for Austria (which would have been the right thing to do, given that it is Austrian and not German). The other option we had in mind was the rich, chocolatey Sachertorte. But whilst researching all of this, we were reminded of another well-known Austrian delicacy: the Linzer Torte. Named after the Austrian city of Linz, it is said to be the oldest cake in the world, having originated in the 1600s, and this instantly made it an appealing dish to attempt. It’s basically a large jam tart. Continue reading
When eating our tricolore salad on Monday, Ash commented that he thought the fresh Italian flavours would go well on a burger. So, as we still had half a beef tomato, half an avocado and half a ciabatta loaf left over from Monday, and some rose veal burgers in the freezer, the Italian-style burger was born. Ash was right – the flavours worked perfectly and almost helped us to believe that it was nearly BBQ weather. And who doesn’t like a good burger?!
We made the tricolore salad as per the original recipe and let it sit while the burgers cooked, to let the herby flavours fully infuse.
Italy is, without a doubt, a country where good quality food is of paramount importance. The Italians are very proud of their local produce and regional speciality dishes, and any tourist willing to take the recommendation of a restaurateur is guaranteed a friendly and passionate introduction to the typical Italian four-course dinner menu (antipasti, primi, secondi e dessert).
Italian food is also widely exported. Many people consider pizza a traditional American dish (although the American deep dish base with lashings of cheese only vaguely resembles the Italian tradition!), and fresh pastas and sauces (again, of variable levels of Italian origin) are available in every high street supermarket across Britain. The Italians would indisputably be horrified at such bastardisations of their culinary heritage as Pizza Hut’s ‘hot dog bites’ and Chicago Town’s stuffed crust pizza. However, with basic flavours of tomato, cheese and a simple carbohydrate, it’s certainly a cuisine that is appealing to the masses.
So, with all that choice, what on earth were we to make as a ‘traditional’ Italian dish? In the past, we’ve made our own pasta, pizza, gnocchi and risotto. Between us, we’ve eaten gelato and salami in Venice, tagliatelle Bolognese and calzone in Bologna, gnocchi and pizza in Rome, and tiramisu in all three. We were lucky that today is a bank holiday in England, which meant we had an entire day to fritter away preparing the elements of all four Italian courses, which Ash in particular was very keen on. So with all that hard work ahead of us, we saw no other option but finally break into the monster panettone Ash won in a work raffle at Christmas at breakfast time. Insanely, it weighs 1.5kg, so in theory it should last forever, but now that we’ve discovered how wonderful it is when toasted, it may get devoured fairly quickly…
We’ve had a brief hiatus but we’re back on our culinary journey and have reached Switzerland. (Top marks to anyone who is thinking, ‘Hang on, they said they’d be going to Poland next.’ If that’s you, you’re quite right, but we’ve changed the route for a variety of fairly boring reasons. So, Switzerland it is.)
Switzerland is somewhere that reminds you on first glance just how beautiful this world is. Miranda visited Interlaken and Basel in 2007 and was struck by the fact that all you need to do is look out the window and you’re faced with majestic mountain scenery and a whole spectrum of vivid blues in the sky and the water. Walking around in that country – Interlaken in particular – could certainly never be boring. And then there’s Europe’s highest point just around the corner to add even more of a sense of wonder.
In terms of food, Switzerland must be most famous for its chocolate and its cheese. Toblerone, Lindt, fondue and raclette all scream ‘Switzerland’ as loudly as that cartoonish cheese with the holes in it (also known as Emmental) does. However, for our Swiss dish we’ve opted for an equally well known but perhaps less obvious traditional delicacy: Bircher muesli. Continue reading
Yesterday, whilst out grocery shopping, we decided to get some lunch. In an effort to avoid the largely unavoidable chain coffee shops, we found an independent café with an extensive sandwich menu. Ash opted for a ‘Super Club’ sandwich from the ‘Familiar Favourites’ list, whilst Miranda went for the ‘Chickpea Salad Signature Sandwich’, involving mashed chickpea salad, avocado and leafy greens. The fact that familiar was spelt ‘familier’, and signature ‘signiture’, should have been our first clue. The fact that we were the only people in the café at 1pm should have been our second, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Our starving stomachs endured a staggeringly long wait before our sandwiches finally arrived. Ash’s ‘Super Club’ baguette had a couple of pieces of overcooked, microwaved bacon and a few bits of chicken, which were mostly masked by the slathering of margarine. Miranda’s sandwich had no avocado and the only evidence of ‘leafy greens’ was some shrivelled up iceberg lettuce on the corner of the plate. We sent it back in search of some avocado, which was provided, but it was so under-ripe it genuinely had the texture of a carrot. Ash didn’t quite believe this until he tried it for himself, at which point he declared, ‘I’ve never experienced anything like that.’ And no one should ever have to, which is why we won’t be returning to that particular establishment.
After that unmitigated disappointment, we were glad we had our German spätzle dinner to look forward to. The shopping trip wasn’t a total disaster, though: we did manage to pick up some bratwurst, a pretzel, and some German wine and beer.